Far left MP takes charge of French parliament’s powerful finance committee

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Far-right MP Eric Coquerel was elected chairman of the French parliament’s powerful finance committee on Thursday, a day after the far-right was given two vice-chairs of the assembly – signs of the growing power of radical parties in the new parliament.

President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party lost control of parliament in elections this month, complicating planned reforms as he will have to share some of the power – and policy oversight – with other parties.

Coquerel, 63, is a veteran politician and one of the leading members of the La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party of the Jean-Luc Melenchon fire.

The finance committee he will now chair has extensive powers, and this was the most watched vote as the new, highly fragmented lower house of parliament went to work.

The commission plays a key role in approving the French budget in parliament and in overseeing the spending of public money by the state, with the ability to carry out improvised checks in ministries.

The chairman can also access, but not publish, the confidential tax returns of companies or individuals.

The committee’s powers go beyond the budget law as it can remove draft amendments to any legislation if it believes it will unnecessarily weigh on public finances, giving the chair a key role in a wide range of policy areas.

Before his election, after two rounds of voting in which no one secured an outright majority, opponents of the right and far right accused La France Insoumise and Coquerel of being unfit for the job – comments highlighting tensions in the assembly.

“I can’t imagine using the finance committee chairmanship to stage a tax witch hunt!” Coquerel tweeted prior to his election, brushing off the allegations.

“We are not going to use it to attack political opponents,” he told Sud Radio, adding that he will use it to detect tax evasion by large companies.

Macron’s Ensemble alliance, the largest party in parliament, even though it does not have an absolute majority, won the leadership of other key committees, but the finance party traditionally goes to an opposition party.